Tiny blood vessels in brain spit to survive

Scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered capillaries have a unique method of expelling debris, such as blood clots, cholesterol or calcium plaque, that blocks the flow of essential nutrients to brain cells. The capillaries spit out the blockage by growing a membrane that envelopes the obstruction and then shoves it out of the blood vessel.

Scientists also found this critical process is 30 to 50 percent slower in an aging brain and likely results in the death of more capillaries.

“The slowdown may be a factor in age-related cognitive decline and may also explain why elderly patients who get strokes do not recover as well as younger patients,” said Jaime Grutzendler, senior author and principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of neurology and of physiology at Feinberg. “Their recovery is much slower.”

The study with mice, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), will be published May 27 in the journal Nature.

Editor’s Note:  See more information on nutrition and dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease,